The Patent Wars

The public patent skirmishes between and among ICT tech titans are fought with weaponized patents stored and deployed to protect and promote market share in a fiercely competitive global consumer arena where its incumbents’ shelf-life is short. The press covers them because they involve the planet’s largest firms whose digital platforms have enslaved us all with necessary if non-understandable, dependency. Apple v. Samsung, Google v. EU, etc. are now the stuff of daily headlines. For ordinary folks, these billion-dollar battles about obscure technology describe and define today’s patent landscape. In this exponentially evolving global competition delayed market, timing compresses profits and threatens continued incumbency. Getting to consumer shelves first is more important than getting there lawfully. But this is not the only patent war raging at present. Enter efficient infringement.

These same squabbling incumbents also are at war on a second front — their decade-old version of patent reform. This war has been fought in publicly remote Capitol Hill jungles hidden beneath a canopy of public apathy. In this separate war, the battling consumer market digital platforms are allied. Their common cause is protecting their product pricing share from the power of patented component suppliers. In this war, their concerted objective is not global consumer market share. It is about how much of their final product sales price they get to keep versus how much they must share with their component suppliers. By weakening patents through congressional and SCOTUS revisions, they weaken component bargaining power while deploying their efficient infringer business model. Their common objective is to enhance their leverage. With the now public Apple-Qualcomm dispute, this formerly hidden second front has spilled into the open. And the press is covering it. Pro-patent advocates need to understand it.

Because it involves huge tech titans, the press is now covering an Apple/Qualcomm global wrestling match that pits the world’s largest component assembler with one of its most essential component licensors, not just in Congress and Amicus briefs but courts and agencies worldwide. It is as if the formerly shrouded Patent Reform initiative has emerged from congressional back rooms into the publicly visible press arena of following billion-dollar battles over the right of a non-practicing entity to license its inventions under mutually agreeable terms or simply submit to the will and wants of Apple’s digital dominance.

It is not too soon to begin following this newly public battle. It is the first time patent reform’s assembler versus component war has broken out into the open. It thus may help break through the congressional apathy and SCOTUS antipathy that has led us to the point where the essential US connection between inventing and investment is on the verge of being permanently severed. See today’s WSJ story.

 

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